For people able to hunker down during the coronavirus pandemic, buying a car might rank way behind stocking up on masks and toilet paper in terms of priorities. But many others still need to get to jobs that can’t be done from home — including healthcare workers, grocery and warehouse workers, and many more — as well as people with caregiving and other responsibilities.
And they may now need a car on a budget as former transit schedules — from city buses to commuter trains — are cut back, car pools are disrupted and ride-share services are impractical in many places. The message, meanwhile, appears to show a light at the end of the tunnel, but not before conditions first get worse.
To help folks in need of cheap transportation to ride out the virus and provide services we all still need, we tapped Cars.com reviewers’ collective experience and combed listings to come up with recommendations that’ll get you to work without breaking the bank. We came up with five good new cars that sticker for about $20,000 or less (including the customary destination charge) and five good choices among used cars listed on our site for no more than $15,000.
For the new cars, we chose vehicles with an automatic transmission for the $20,000-or-under price range (though their listed entry prices below may, in some cases, include a manual). Cash discounts or cheap financing, both in heavier rotation toward the end of the calendar year could be a budget bonus.
For the used cars, our picks feature good reviews or a high finish in one of Cars.com’s class-spanning head-to-head comparison tests against similar vehicles. We narrowed the field to those readily available at the $15,000 price with relatively low mileage (50,000 miles or less) for lower repair risk. As with all used cars, however, mileage and condition can vary greatly for similar vehicles, and we recommend a third-party inspection before any used-car purchase. Most of these recommended vehicles — generally older with more mileage and risk — are listed on Cars.com at $10,000 or less if your budget has such limits.